Wednesday, June 6, 2018

The War of 18-49, The Flash

Speeding Out of the Gate

Two years after the CW found success with Arrow, it was ready to try a second entry from DC Comics. And it was clear on premiere night that The Flash was not just an extension of the brand, but a major expansion of it. Arrow never had a Plus higher than 64 in its first two seasons, but The Flash roared out of the gate with 4.83 million viewers and a 1.9 demo rating (113 Plus). It dropped from there, but by genre show standards, it was a great hold; it held onto 1.7 in week two, fell again to 1.5 in week three, but then spent almost the entire rest of season one in the 1.3-1.5 range (excepting a single 1.6 late in the fall and a single 1.2 in the spring). The first season averaged an 86 Plus, which at the time was bigger than any drama season in the CW's previous eight years... by nearly 50 percent! (The previous record holder was season one of The Vampire Diaries at 60.)

The Record-Setting Prime Years

But as that great hold across season one might have suggested, The Flash was far from a one-season wonder. It returned to a 1.4 demo and basically hovered around that point for the next five months; while there were a couple bad comparisons vs. the early season one episodes, it was very close to even in raw numbers for the rest of the season. Even with a minor softening in the spring, The Flash coasted to another CW record with a whooping 94 Plus.

With another good hold in spring 2016, it didn't seem impossible that The Flash could actually make it to the big four league average for season three. But those hopes were dashed pretty early, as it fell from a 1.3 premiere to 1.1 and 1.0 the next two weeks. It spent most of season three between 0.9 and 1.1, but did take the time to hit a series high Plus in a DC universe-wide crossover in late November. The Flash was still huge (exactly as huge as season one, in fact), but it was a bit of a downturn from season two and not particularly close to the 100 mark.

The Superhero Empire Begins to Crumble

And in season four, it was finally time for The Flash to take its first major step down from the historic heights of the first three seasons. It premiered to a 1.1 and still managed several 0.9's and 1.0's early in the season, but The Flash finally behaved like a mortal show in the second half of the season and fell to a bunch of 0.7's and even a few 0.6's. It was a 15% decline in Plus for The Flash, and pretty much all the superhero shows it had helped spawn elsewhere on the network took similar (or even bigger) declines in 2017-18. But at this 72 Plus level, The Flash would've still been the biggest drama in CW history if not for those first three seasons.

And with another 11% decline in season five, it managed to tie the largest non-Flash season in CW history (season four of Arrow). The downhill trend only continued in seasons six and seven, with its largest declines yet (though the season seven ones are somewhat inflated because it didn't return till March).

Adults 18-49 info by season:

12014-15Tuesday 8:001.441.21.9detail
82021-22Tue 8:00, Wed 8:000.13-38%0.10.2detailC-
9Spring 2023Wednesday 8:000.09-28%0.10.1detailC+

Historical-adjusted ratings by season:

9Spring 202322flop0.09-13%14262321


The War of 18-49 chronicles the ratings history of veteran primetime series. For more, see the Index.

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